The First Swallow.

White-throated herald of the coming May,1
It joys me much to see thee here again !2
Once more shalt thou, sweet bird, at dawn of day,3
Chase my dull slumbers with thy cheerful strain ;4
Thy parent-labours, at my window-pane,5
With placid morning thoughts my breast shall fill,6
And I shall quit my bed,7
Full-fraught in heart and head8
With soothing trust in God, and unto all good-will.9
Who can behold the nicest art and care,10
With which thou labourest thy little home,11
Nor think of Him, whose hand is written there12
Ev’n on thy tiny edifice of loam13
As visibly as on the vast air-dome !14
Or who can mark the fond firm ties that bind15
Thy chosen mate and thee,16
In toils alike and glee,17
Nor yearn with deeper lovingness for all his kind !18
On thee, indeed, and all thy dark-winged race,19
Who cleave the air or skim the glassy pool,20
Conspicuous are the tokens of His grace,21
Who holds infinity beneath his rule :22
When autumn winds our norland climate cool,23
Doth He not kindly lead you far away24
To some more sunny land,25
Where skies are ever bland,26
And make your span of life one long bright summer’s day ?27
So do we oftest deem, at least, of thee,28
Sweet page, that holdest up the skirts of spring !—29
Usher of flowers—foretype of songs to be,30
Albeit less perfectly thyself may sing !31
Yet doth a veil hang o’er thy passaging :32
Haply thou hiest thee, as some do say,33
To lonely pool or brook,34
Or dark secluded nook,35
And there, like bedded stone, dost sleep the cold away.36
Dark as the polar secrets of the north,37
Have been thy ways, thou pilgrim of the sky,38
Since, bringing light and life, Time first stood forth,39
A finger-guide in bleak eternity :40
Though questioned long by man’s deep searching eye,41
Thy course is full of doubt, when all is done,42
And still we can but guess,43
That when the chill winds press,44
Thou seek’st a home in climes that front the prone-rayed sun.45
Welcome, thou gentle haunter of the eaves !46
Gladly I welcome thee, come whence thou may ;—47
Whether the spirit that evolves the leaves48
Hath from the deep awakened thee to day,49
Or thou from far-off lands hast winged thy way.50
I love thee, and with joy will watch anew51
The labours, to and fro,52
Which thou must undergo,53
Ere from their beauteous shells thy young step forth to view.54
Men wrong thee, my poor bird, when they compare55
A summer-fly of human kind to thee ;56
Although thou comest when the skies are fair,57
And at the winter’s touch dost straightway flee,58
No faithlessness in thy career we see ;59
Thy comings and thy goings both are sure :60
And could’st thou choose, my bird,61
Thy flight should be deferred,62
And through the year thy stay, I know, should aye endure.63
More justly wert thou likened to the young,64
Who immaturely quit us in their noon,65
And most of all to those whose lips have sung66
The brief preludings of a pleasant tune,67
But have grown dumb and bloomless all too soon !68
These are thy prototypes ;— but as we bend69
With meekness to the blow,70
That lays such dear ones low,71
Be we content with what we have of thee, sweet friend !72